Air Algerie strike ends but problems continue

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Algeria’s state-run airline Air Algerie has resumed flights after a four-day strike, but union leaders have suspended talks with management, saying a promise to reinstate fired staff has not been honoured.

Flight personnel began striking last Monday, demanding major salary increases. The cabin crew strike forced the cancellation of flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded on both sides of the Mediterranean. The strike came at one of the busiest times of the year as people travel between France and Algeria.

Riot police intervened to calm furious passengers in France’s Marseille Provence airport last week, and there were angry scenes too at Houari Boumediene airport outside the Algerian capital on Thursday.

Algeria’s government attempted to lease aircraft and lay on extra ferries to clear the backlog from the strike.

On Friday Air Algerie resumed operations, with the country’s official APS news agency saying the strike had been called off after an agreement to begin negotiations between staff and management.

However, union leaders suspended talks on Sunday. “We withdrew from the talks after we realised that our colleagues had been prevented from resuming work,” Yassine Hamamouche, president of the SNPNC union representing staff at the state-run airline, told AFP.
“Management undertook to sort out this situation and talks should resume Monday at 2:00 pm (1300 GMT)” if the sanctions against some strikers were lifted, he added.

In the dispute with Air Algerie cabin staff, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said the government was keen to see a swift resolution. “The government calls for the opening of dialogue with the workers within strict respect of the law,” Ouyahia said last week.

Ouyahia promised that fired workers would be reinstated and yesterday he said that while he could not go beyond the 20% increase already granted to staff (who had been asking for a 106% increase), he did have some room to manoeuvre.

The strike, which airline chief Mohamed Salah Boultif said cost US448 000, is the latest in a series of protests by government employees in Algeria since the start this year.

The government is worried that any strikes could spill over into the kind of protests which ousted leaders in Egypt and in Algeria’s neighbour, Tunisia.

Analysts say that as a result the government has been handing out substantial pay increases to settle industrial disputes, a policy which in turn has encouraged workers in other sectors to go on strike.